Pit Notes: Griffith, Therrien Reign Supreme at Memorial Day Classic Practice Day

With a new coat of pavement on Barre’s Thunder Road, speed was the name of the game at today’s Mekkelsen RV Memorial Day Classic practice day. Drivers from Connecticut to Quebec flocked to the high banks to get dialed in for the season opener, and at the end of the day, it was Hudson, N.H.’s Derek Griffith and Hinesburg’s Bobby Therrien topping the charts for the Pro All Stars Series (PASS) Super Late Models and Thunder Road Late Models.

Griffith laid down a fast lap of 11.446 seconds in the third PASS practice session, while Therrian clocked a 12.210-second lap in the third Late Model session. While practice times are considered unofficial, both marks would have shattered the official track Super Late Model and ACT-type Late Model records of 12.245 and 12.935 seconds, respectively.

Therrien was also second-fastest in the PASS ranks, running a lap of 11.501 seconds in their second session. St-Denis, QC’s Patrick Laperle, Morrill, Me.’s Travis Benjamin, Center Conway, N.H.’s D.J. Shaw, and Strong, Me.’s Tracy Gordon were consistently near the top of the speed charts. Multi-time PASS champions Johnny Clark and Ben Rowe were among the other drivers in attendance, along with two-time “King of the Road” Nick Sweet and former Labor Day Classic winner Travis Stearns.

While Griffith had a strong day, it was heartbreak for another Hudson front-runner. Former Milk Bowl winner Joey Polewarczyk Jr., who was hoping to prepare for his first Super Late Model win at the quarter-mile, saw his engine go up in smoke during the second practice session. “Joey Pole” has been forced to withdraw from tomorrow’s event as a result.

In the Late Model ranks, Northfield’s Matt White and Fayston’s Brooks Clark were also quick throughout the day, as nearly every driver in attendance turned at least one lap that would have broken the division’s track record. Vermont Governor Phil Scott topped the second session, while Norwich, Conn.’s Ray Christian III was impressive in just his second visit to the speedway. Former Memorial Day Classic winners Jason Corliss, Trampas Demers, and Kip Stockwell took laps as well.

In the day’s final session, young standout Marcel J. Gravel of Wolcott took a spin off the backstretch. Gravel need help to get rolling, but was back out later in the session. Northfield’s Jason Allen coasted to a stop in the second session, with his team quickly diagnosing a burned coil wire and making repairs.

The Lenny’s Shoe & Apparel Flying Tigers saw a mix of youth and experience making waves. Former Champion Jason Woodard of Waterbury Center was the fastest on the day at 13.791 seconds, with rookie Jaden Perry of Hardwick just 0.007 seconds behind. Mike Martin, Dwanye Lanphear, Trevor Lyman, and rookie Burt Spooner III also showed speed.

A few Tiger drivers encountered problems during the day. Defending Rookie of the Year Kevin Dodge lost a transmission during the opening practice. After towing to his nearby shop for repairs, the Barre driver was back in time for the third session. Waterbury’s Clem Despault went for a spin off turn three and four, but suffered no damage. Meanwhile, Morrisville’s Brent Currier reported on Facebook that he had developed a radiator leak and was looking to make repairs for tomorrow.

Hardwick’s Will Hennequin was tops in the Allen Lumber Street Stocks, leading the way at 15.052 seconds. Hinesburg’s Cooper Bouchard, Essex Junction’s Cooper Bouchard, Essex Junction’s Matthew Smith, and Morrisville’s Brandon Lanphear were consistently fast throughout the day. Veteran Alan Maynard arrived in time for the final session and quickly got up to speed. Former Champion Tommy “Thunder” Smith blew a clutch during warm-up laps for the opening session, but was back on track later in the day.

These drivers and many more will return Sunday, May 28 for the 55th Memorial Day Classic presented by Mekkelsen RV Sales & Rental. The first green flag will fly at 1:00pm, with Class Day ceremonies scheduled for 12:20pm. Admission for the special event is $25 for adults and free for kids ages 12 and under.